Stressed Out? Here's What To Do

In this Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 photo, Kellogg's Corn Flakes are poured into a bowl in Marysville, Pa. Kellogg Co. said Thursday, Oct. 29, that shoppers' loyalty to its cereal brands helped boost its profit 6 percent in the third quarter.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
News of war, terrorism, and economic woes confront Americans every time they turn on the television or pick up a newspaper.

Almost everyone has the jitters but for certain individuals, these external crises can and will trigger internal crises, report leading psychoanalysts.

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay says it is normal to feel anxious about the war.

However, too much anxiety can lead to lower work productivity, panic attacks and sleeplessness.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), there are 20-30 million Americans who have some form of anxiety disorder.

And with the heightened public awareness of war and terrorism, individuals who are already predisposed to anxiety, fear and phobias are at even greater risk.

Anxiety is a problem when it lasts a long time (becomes chronic) or occurs in the absence of a specific stress or threat. In those cases, you may want to consider treatment.

Levels of anxiety can range from a sense of uneasiness to outright panic.

Typically, a person could experience apprehension, irritability, impatience, feeling of imminent danger, restlessness, sleeplessness, difficulty in concentrating, lack of enjoyment, depression and exhaustion.

Physical symptoms may be: rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, hyperactivity, shakiness, shortness of breath, sweating, light-headedness, muscle tension, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, sexual dysfunction, hyperventilation, indigestion and weight gain.

Here is what you can do to treat anxiety:

  • Regain a sense of control - Mentally review "safe zones" by reassuring yourself that you are safe in your home or at your job or school. Also focus on the present - take problems one at a time.
  • Stay informed but limit continuous TV coverage of the war. Too much is over-stimulating and can make you believe that you are more at risk that you really are.
  • Help others. After Sept. 11, a lot of people volunteered, finding it can be therapeutic to contribute time or resources.
  • Talk out concerns and fears with others, dealing with like-minded people. Don't keep your feelings bottled up.
  • Try not to hate the enemy. Hate can interfere with things we need to do. Try spiritual outlets for powerful and destructive emotions.
  • Exercise.
  • Release tension by getting a massage, using diaphragmatic breathing and other self-relaxation exercises.
  • Rest 6-10 hours per day.
  • Exhibit a positive attitude through meditation and mental imagery and do less complaining.
  • Maintain a daily routine.
  • Go on outings with friends and family.
  • Pursue hobbies and activities such as listening to music, walking, and reading.

If severe symptoms persist, professional help and medication may become necessary.

Medication can be very useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders, and it is often used in conjunction with one or more of types of therapy. Anti-depressants or anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications) are used to alleviate severe symptoms so that other forms of therapy can go forward.

If you are having trouble sleeping, here is what you can do:

  • Avoid stressful situations at the end of the day, such as watching news, arguing with friends or relatives, paying bills.
  • Use relaxation techniques.
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Drink warm milk or tea.
  • Don't oversleep: get up at a normal hour, only nap when necessary.
  • Eat a balanced meal at regular intervals.
  • Exercise regularly.

It's popular custom to have a drink when you feel stressed, but alcohol along with other substances can actually precipitate stress.

Steer clear of alcohol, caffeine, sedatives, amphetamines and other drugs that affect the nervous system and illegal substances such as cocaine.